Case Study: Apex Companies, LLC
Apex Companies, LLC is a leading national water resources and environmental services consulting and engineering firm dedicated to providing private and public sector clients with full-service, single-source solutions for routine and complex projects. For more than 20 years, Apex has delivered an extensive platform of services to a broad mix of private and public sector clients—from energy companies, manufacturers, retailers, and real estate developers to insurance companies and municipal governments. Across industries and markets, Apex meets environmental challenges with strong technical resources; professional depth in scientific and engineering disciplines; and superb, cost-efficient project management.
Project scope: remove administrator rights from all employees without impeding user productivity
- IT Staff is very lean with only three support members responsible for 500+ endpoints spanning 35 geographically disbursed branch offices
- Apex saves $100K in desktop management costs per year
- IT typically performed well over 500 installs on an annual basis, ranging from simple upgrades to full application installs – Viewfinity reversed the previously ineffective and costly way to deploy updates and handle installs
Apex employs more than 500 professionals, including geologists, hydrogeologists, engineers, air quality experts, environmental scientists, industrial hygienists, safety specialists and field technicians working at the company's headquarters in Maryland and 35 office locations and remote sites throughout the U.S. Phillip Stasko, Director of IT for Apex, is responsible for the organization's network of 500-plus desktop PCs and mobile devices.
Apex is required to enforce a high level of security regarding network and system access. Employees are thoroughly screened before hiring and provided access to company resources on an as needed basis. In addition, Apex needs to ensure that all software has been installed legally and that every application has a valid license when applicable.
According to Stasko, the biggest challenge facing IT is to provide immediate support for his end users. "The IT staff consists of only three support members who routinely troubleshoot problems or provide special assistance for over 500 employees. At times, the number of requests can cause significant delays in customer response and although our support reps quickly turn around cases, any delays in responding to end users can result in frustration and revenue loss," he explained.
After Stasko and his team conducted an audit of support tickets, it was determined that IT typically performs well over 500 installs on an annual basis, ranging from simple upgrades to full application installs. It was further discovered that the majority of the tickets were small upgrades for commonly used applications that could have been installed by the end user at their most convenient time. End user frustration would escalate particularly when updates such as Flash, Java or Adobe Reader were denied. The only way to resolve would be a call to the IT support desk and time would be required by both the IT member and employee.
While Apex’s commitment to moving to a fully locked down environment would serve to provide a highly-secure IT environment, certain applications require elevated admin rights by the workers who use them in order to complete their assigned tasks. Apex required a security solution that is granular enough to elevate privileges on the application level, rather than provide individual users or groups access to admin rights.
Stasko sought an approach that would reverse the previously ineffective and costly way to deploy updates, and found Viewfinity Privilege Management to provide all of the needed capabilities, and more. Viewfinity has been extremely useful when managing end user requests. Because of the product’s whitelisting capabilities, users no longer need to contact Apex IT in order to perform routine updates or whitelist installs. This helps tremendously as late night requests and deadlines are no longer held hostage to the time and work hours of IT. It also frees up the very limited IT support time that would normally be spent assisting with installs. Finally, it has reduced the amount of time required to inventory and assess hardware and software.
“Because of the product’s whitelisting capabilities, users no longer need to contact Apex IT in order to perform routine updates or whitelist installs. This helps tremendously as late night requests and deadlines are no longer held hostage to the time and work hours of IT. It also frees up the very limited IT support time that would normally be spent assisting with installs. Finally, it has reduced the amount of time required to inventory and assess hardware and software”
Director of IT
Stasko conservatively estimates the reduction in desktop management costs to Apex at $100,000 per year. Not only a financial benefit, Viewfinity-generated reports provide a wealth of asset and configuration management information regarding systems, applications and licensing.
"Viewfinity's reporting allows me to quickly ascertain which applications are installed, how many are installed, when they were installed and on which computers. I use this information to budget as well as to maintain license legality," said Stasko.
"With Viewfinity I have very accurate, complete information. Without Viewfinity I would guestimate my budget," he said.
Apex is also able to determine how often users are running an application, which is very useful for several of the network-based license applications in our company. By determining how often an application is being used, Stasko and his team are able to determine whether additional licenses are required and to which office usage charges should be applied. The several lookup screens also provide immediate, detailed information regarding a workstation. If a hardware request upgrade is made or problem occurs, IT can quickly review the hardware of the workstation and make quick decisions to resolve. This results in less downtime and faster ticket closure.
Stasko reports that Viewfinity allows users to perform 95 percent or more of their would-be support calls on their own. Since a majority of calls were install related, Viewfinity has eliminated the need for end user’s to stop working and call for IT support. This is particularly beneficial to end users that work on the west coast (IT is based primarily on the east coast) or those employees working late at night. This has proven not only beneficial for application installs and updates but also for printer installs as users are permitted to add home printers to their laptops.
Viewfinity also makes it easy for end users to submit requests through a pop-up window. Now IT can authorize or disapprove a request either at the user or enterprise level. It’s an easy way to fulfill future requests.
Viewfinity also provides the ability to customize messages on the pop-up window and notify a user that an application has been blacklisted. This immediate feedback informs them that the application will not be installed and reduces the number of requests to IT.
"What's also great is connecting to our remote users via the Viewfinity GUI for remote terminal troubleshooting capabilities, we couldn't do this previously," added Stasko.
"Everyone frowns at the lack of admin rights, so giving people the ability to add and install applications really goes far. If it wasn't for Viewfinity being able to elevate and manage privilege rights and its application whitelisting capabilities, I'm not sure where we would be," he said.